At N.D. meeting, states will seek consensus on power plant rule

Source: Jean Chemnick, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, April 16, 2014

With only six weeks left until U.S. EPA is set to release its proposed guidance for existing power plant carbon emissions, stakeholders across the country are making their closing arguments about what the rule should look like.Representatives from energy-producing states will meet tomorrow in North Dakota to try to find consensus on how EPA should craft its proposal in a way that respects state policies and energy mixes.

The meeting at Bismarck State College, set up by North Dakota’s Department of Health, will include an industry panel spearheaded by Bismarck-based Basin Electric Power Cooperative. Slated to send representatives or attend by phone are Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Texas, West Virginia, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and Louisiana. Joe Goffman, EPA air and radiation senior counsel, will attend.

Dale Niezwaag, senior legislative representative at the Basin Electric Power Cooperative, said the meeting is intended to “get states together to see if there are common points or common issues that they can agree on, and start to use that to move forward and push some ideas.”

North Dakota’s Department of Health invited industry to participate, he said, so it could give state regulators feedback before they craft state implementation plans for the EPA rule, which is due to be proposed by June 1 and finalized a year later.

The president’s memorandum last year also called for states to submit their own implementation plans by June 30, 2016, but agency officials have hinted in recent weeks that that deadline might be extended.

Niezwaag said the energy-producing states don’t plan to create a counterweight to a set of principles released last year by a coalition of 15 states with strong renewable energy and carbon policies. But he said the two groups would likely emphasize different things (Greenwire, Dec. 16, 2013).

“These states generally have different needs in terms of manufacturing base and energy production,” he said. “They bring a different perspective to the issue.”

BEPC’s bottom line, he said, is that EPA should craft a rule that would allow coal-fired electric generation to stay a part of the energy mix. That would mean allowing coal plants to comply with regulations using commercially available technologies used on site and not by investing in renewable energy or lower-carbon alternatives.

The Natural Resources Defense Council and other groups have touted proposals that would require a significant share of emissions reductions to come from utility investment in demand-side efficiency, alternative energy sources and other shifts. All of these would leave coal at a disadvantage.

Meanwhile, utility-sector advocates made their way to the White House last week to meet with administration officials about the rule. Utility supplier Xcel Energy Inc., PNM Resources Inc. and energy and utility holding company PPL Corp. were all represented. Bill Bumpers of Baker Botts LLP, who attended the Wednesday briefing, said that staff from the White House Council on Environmental Quality, EPA, and the Office of Management and Budget “asked good questions but nothing that tipped off where they’re going.”